GreenNet has been supporting IMAP for several years and many GreenNet members have have taken to the new email protocol. IMAP allows you to synchronise email folders across multiple devices and computers, and with SquirrelMail webmail.

IMAP is sometimes preferable to ordinary old POP for accessing your messages and maintaining your folder list whether you’re on your iPhone, office or home broadband, although it tends to be better for advanced users. If IMAP has got you curious but you’re not sure what desktop application to use with your GreenNet email account, consider the extensible, fast, cross-platform and free Mozilla Thunderbird, Firefox’s little sibling. Here’s how to get the full GreenNet experience in Thunderbird with IMAP.

What’s IMAP?

Internet Message Access Protocol (Wikipedia page) enables email programs to read messages stored on the server. Unlike POP, with IMAP it’s as if you’re browsing a network drive of files on a remote server with an open, live connection to that server; whenever you open a folder or view a message, it’s displayed from that server live. IMAP maintains a constant connection with the GreenNet server and updates real-time.

Is IMAP better than POP?

POP downloads and copies new messages to your inbox on your computer. With POP you can download once and disconnect from the server, which is particularly useful if you are on a dial-up connection rather than an “always on” connection like broadband. But you cannot download messages via POP that have already been archived into folders in SquirrelMail, and your email program (‘client’) has to poll/check the server to get new messages. With POP access, if you move a message to a folder or star/flag it in your desktop client, that change is not reflected in GreenNet SquirrelMail and the messages can appear “out of sync”. Any rules or mail filters you set up on one machine with a POP client have to be set up and reprocessed with a fresh download on all your other machines.

If you are using POP on multiple computers, to get a similar effect, you need to choose one computer that will be responsible for deleting the messages off the server after a certain period of time. Unlike IMAP, POP does not give access to multiple folders on the server. POP only downloads your main inbox, so that any sorting into folders is done on your computer.

Think of POP as copying files from a server to your computer and working with them on your hard drive. Think of IMAP as connecting to a remote server and working with the files saved there.

Why Thunderbird (and not Mail or Outlook)?

We’re naturally biased towards open source software here at GreenNet, but there are good reasons why Thunderbird is the best desktop client choice out there for GreenNet IMAP access:

1. It’s extensible. Like Firefox, a wide variety of optional Thunderbird extensions can add features and functionality other clients only dream about.

2. It’s free and cross-platform. You work on a Mac? PC? Linux desktop? Unlike or the various flavours of Outlook, Thunderbird just works everywhere. Plus, there’s a handy portable version that can run from your thumb drive, too.

Set up Thunderbird correctly for GreenNet SquirrelMail IMAP

For details on how to set up Thunderbird to use IMAP in the first place visit our Set up Thunderbird page.

First things first. Once you’re fetching your email via IMAP with Thunderbird, there are two settings you’ll want to set manually: specifically, where Thunderbird should store sent messages and drafts. In your IMAP account settings, the Copies & Folders area, be sure to change the default location for Sent and Drafts to [GreenNet]/Sent Mail and [GreenNet]/Drafts respectively, as shown.

IMAP setupIMAP setup